I Saw Eternity - Contemporary Canadian Choral Music
Timothy CORLIS (b. 1972)
Leonard ENNS (b. 1948)
I Saw Eternity [6.37]
Peter TIEFENBACH (b. 1960)
Nunc Dimittis [3.29]
Ruth WATSON HENDERSON (b. 1932)
Missa Brevis [12.25]
To See the Cherry Hung With Snow [3.49]
Paul HALLEY (b. 1952)
Bring Us, O Lord God [6.13]
Craig GALBRAITH (b. 1975)
Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence [6.22]
Marjan MOZETICH (b. 1947)
Flying Swans [8.48]
Mark G. SIRETT (b. 1952)
Bless the Lord for the Good Land [3.50]
Glenn BUHR (b. 1954)
Agnus Dei [6.20]
Imant RAMINSH (b. 1943)
Psalm 23 [5.57]
Stephen CHATMAN (b. 1950)
Michael Bloss (organ); Leslie De’Ath (piano); John Marshman (cello); Stephen
Pierre (clarinet); Elora Festival Singers/Noel Edison
rec. 7-10 April 2011, Church of St. John the Evangelist, Elora, Ontario, Canada.
NAXOS 8.572812 [73.58]
This is the ninth recording by Noel Edison and his Elora Festival Singers for
Naxos. Excepting their Christmas album, each recording has focused on a particular
composer, and each CD has rightly met with considerable critical acclaim. This
recording is the first to feature the works of several Canadian composers, all
of the music written in the last few decades. Many of the works were written
for, or premiered by, this choir.
The CD opens with a setting of the Gloria by Timothy Corlis. The choir’s
opening fortissimo chord is impressively projected, but the music quickly winds
down to a more tentative, gentler mood. Soon a piano enters with driving ostinato
figures that inject greater energy and movement into the vocal writing. Switching
between Latin and English, the music alternates between active and static, finally
building to a sustained climax at 5:30 as the choir sings “Alleluia,”
a word that is not part of the traditional Gloria text.
The slowly shifting cluster chords of I Saw Eternity are reminiscent
of Eric Whitacre’s music, and the choir sings it with rapt intensity.
This style of music requires, and here receives, spotless intonation. After
these two weightier works, Tiefenbach’s Nunc Dimittis is touchingly
simple, with choral lines lying within a narrow range until the word “light,”
where the voices suddenly divide into a widely spaced chord, a perfect setting
of the word, beautifully realized in this performance.
Henderson’s Missa Brevis features more concentrated chromaticism
and rhythmic complexity, as does Galbraith’s Let All Mortal Flesh Keep
Silence. Towards the end of the motet, Galbraith introduces subtle echoes
of “Picardy,” the hymn tune usually wed to this text. This leads
to a thrilling climax with the word “Alleluia”, as the hymn tune
is finally heard in full.
Suffice to say that these 13 selections on this CD provide a generous sampling
of the variety of compositional styles found in contemporary Canadian choral
music. The Elora Festival Singers inhabit each style fully and with apparent
ease. Their singing is consistently beautiful, the sections well balanced, with
unified ensemble singing and crisp diction. In several of the works, sopranos
and tenors are asked to sing in a high tessitura, yet they never sound strained
or overly bright. And in Bless the Lord for the Good Land, the basses
display an impressive low range that would be the envy of many Russian choirs.
While the instrumentalist’s contribution is minimal, their playing is
as excellent and as sensitive as the singing.
The recording itself is well engineered, capturing the choir in a warm ambiance
that nevertheless allows for textual clarity. Noel Edison obviously believes
in this music and he elicits interpretations of passion and refinement in equal
measure. This is well-crafted and profound music that is performed with great
conviction and beauty.
David A. McConnell
Passion and refinement in equal measure.